One Teacher's Voice

Think.Learn.Know.Act

Teacher as activist

[Original date posted: 4/22/2012]

It has been a whirlwind of a semester. Not only have I gained a tremendous amount of pedagogy knowledge, I have discovered something about myself that I never knew before: I am an activist. I grew up amongst a family and a church both deeply involved in social justice issues. I attended rallies, fundraisers, I debated and I thought about the world, but I never self identified as an activist. Not until this year.

It started with Rush Limbaugh. The idea that anyone would say what he said is mind-boggling but what bothered me was the fact that so many people see him as a leader in the GOP. I started researching. I did my best to educate myself on what was happening in the world and was astounded at all the anti-women laws and policies getting passed in state after state.
Then Trayvon Martin was killed and his killer, George Zimmerman, walked free for months. I started researching. I learned about Stand Your Ground laws, ALEC, the Koch Brothers and more GOP agendas. At this point, online and in person, I went a little overboard. I call it my manic social media phase. I started posting like crazy on Facebook and Twitter and it was all I could talk about. I pulled in the reins and realized, that’s not where my time is best spent. It is good to research, but bombarding people with links does very little for any cause. In fact, it sometimes annoys people so much they just stop following you. And I didn’t want that. I started compiling the information I was finding and only putting out links I thought were from as reliable a source as possible and that meant deleting posts every once in a while.
I made myself a rule: I will never post an article, petition or anything else without reading it fully, top to bottom, with my own two eyes. I was guilty of re-posting items solely based on headline. That’s NOT good researching or good activism.
All of these political ideals mentioned are solely mine. I will never teach one political ideology over another. I will support and encourage my future students to think for themselves, think critically, and back up what they believe with solid evidence, no matter what they believe. I will have students who fall all over the political spectrum and I want that to be the case. It will lead to rich debates and discussions about critical issues and help my students to see perspectives outside of their own.
I am still very much researching and following the news about anti-women policies and racism in America, but I have set my activism sites on one topic in particular which I believe has widespread, bi-partisan support: high stakes testing. I am joining more and more teachers, students, and parents in the fight against the absurd amount of testing and the tests themselves. I started researching, and I haven’t stopped.
Granted, a standardized test alone is not the problem. There is nothing inherently evil in a standardized test. It is when the score of the test is linked to a child’s intelligence or learning capabilities, a teacher’s job, or a school’s funding that it is incredibly damaging and I see evidence that these high stakes tests are killing public education.
[another hot button topic: corporate “reform”, the charter school movement and privatization in schools…a topic for another post]
I believe we (teachers, parents, students, administrators and community members) have the potential to actually make some positive change happen for the children of our communities. We need to start rallying together, combining groups and letting the world know just how damaging these tests are for our future as a democratic society.
I am going to do some re-organization of my blog and begin to use it as a way to further a message I believe is crucial to the future of our country: eliminate high-stakes standardized testing.
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